In modern times, we’ve seen the near elimination of polio, scarlet fever, and other serious health concerns that plagued our ancestors in the recent past. In the Victorian era, dentures were a common wedding present, since many people lost most or all of their teeth by their 20s. Today, an emphasis on preventive dentistry and better at-home oral hygiene routines have made it possible for most people to keep their natural smiles healthy for a lifetime. The next frontier in dental innovation may be the complete elimination of cavities.
How Cavities Form
After every meal, your mouth undergoes an acid attack. As oral bacteria break down food particles and excrete acidic plaques onto the surfaces of your teeth, your saliva is working overtime trying to neutralize the plaque before it can weaken your tooth enamel. Luckily, tooth enamel is one of the strongest substances in the body, and saliva is very good at neutralizing acidity. However, high sugar or acidic foods and beverages can overwhelm your saliva’s neutralizing abilities and weaken enamel causing tooth decay or cavities.
How the New Molecule Prevents Cavities
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham created a molecule that blocks the function of bacterial enzymes that form decay causing plaque. Studies conducted on rodents who were fed a diet of decay-causing foods showed a significant decrease in cavities. While this molecule isn’t quite ready to be marketed for human consumption, it definitely gives researchers and dentists hope that a cavity-free smile is in all of our futures.
Looking to the Future of Dentistry
As the field of dentistry progresses, we’ll begin to see ever greater amounts of preventive care innovations. In addition to this unique cavity prevention technique, researchers in the UK are working on remineralizing teeth. That means instead of using a filling to repair teeth following tooth decay, we may be able to regrow natural tooth structure! Keeping a whole, healthy smile for life, has never been easier.